Oral History Interview with Donald Allen Gilbert.

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Record 47/959
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Admin/Biog History Donald Allen Gilbert was born in Halstad, MN September 14, 1924. In 1930 the family moved to St. Paul, MN where his father was a pharmacist. He was a student at the University of Minnesota when World War II began. He enlisted in the Army Air Force on March 31, 1943, but was transferred to the 3rd Battalion, 335th Infantry, 84th Division. On November 11, 1944 he received a gunshot wound to the leg and was captured near Linden. After receiving medical attention he was sent to Stalag 11B in Northern Germany where he was a POW until liberated at the end of the war. He was discharged in November 1945. He received the Combat Infantry Badge; Purple Heart; European Theater Campaign Ribbon; Victory Medal; and Good Conduct Medal.
Classification Archives
Collection World War II Oral History Project
Dates of Accumulation July 16, 2003
Abstract Cassette recorded Oral history interview with Donald Allen Gilbert. He enlisted in the Army Air Force on March 31, 1943, but was transferred to the 3rd Battalion, 335th Infantry, 84th Division. On November 11, 1944 he received a gunshot wound to the leg and was captured near Linden. After receiving medical attention he was sent to Stalag 11B in Northern Germany where he was a POW until liberated at the end of the war.

Don Gilbert Interview
16 July 2003
Conducted by Tom Sullivan

{T: indicates the interviewer, Tom Sullivan; D: indicates the subject, Don Gilbert. Open or closed brackets [ ] indicate a word or phrase not understood or for which the proper spelling is doubtful, respectively}.

T: It's July 16thh, 2003 and I'm Tom Sullivan at the Oshkosh Public Museum. And I'm going to be talking to Don Gilbert who served in World War II and he is going to be telling me about his experiences in that war. Are we ready to go Don?

D: I'm all set.

T: Okay. Tell me first, when and where were you born?

D: I was born in Halstead, Minnesota on September 14th, 1924. And I was born in the same room of a house that my mother was born in.

T: I see. What did your parents do for a living there?

D: My dad was the druggist in town and unfortunately, he went bankrupt during the Depression of the late 20's, early 30's. And we, he got a job with Uncle Sam and we moved to I think, I think we moved to Fargo-Morehead first, then to St. Paul, Minnesota.

T: Did your father do the same type of work then when you went to St. Paul? Was he a pharmacist there?

D: He was with the alcohol/tax unit of Uncle Sam. I really don't remember what he did, Tom. Other than I know that his pharmacy background helped him in the job responsibility that he had.

T: That's understandable. Did you have brothers and sisters?

D: I have one sister who is two years younger than I am.

T: And she's still living?

D: Yes, she is. She's in Boulder City, Nevada.

T: Tell me about your childhood in St. Paul. How old were you when you moved there?

D: I think that I moved into first grade when we moved to the twin cities and attended that grade school. And then I graduated from Murray High School in St. Paul in June of 1942.

T: You told me about your father's experiences with the Depression. Can you recall any other experiences, things that happened to you during the Depression; how it affected your family or maybe people that you knew?

D: Well, one thing, at least in our family, we couldn't afford a car so my dad would take the streetcar to his office in downtown St. Paul. I had a lot of jobs like cutting grass, and shoveling snow and delivering papers. My mother did not work but things were kinda tough in those years and we did not take any trips anyplace. But we survived and I don't ever remember going to bed hungry at night. So we did a lot better than some I guess.

T: What did you do for fun when you were in grade school and high school?

D: Well, we played football, and played hockey, basketball and I broke my leg up here playing football when I was, I think I was 12 years old at the time. And the only way they had in those years to make sure that it mended properly was to have your leg up in the air for three months. So I don't know how long I was at the hospital but then I moved home and had the leg elevated for that period of time.

T: Now you graduated from high school in 1942. I imagine you were 17, 18 years old.

D: I was 17 at the time that I graduated.

T: You probably knew that Uncle Sam was going to be requiring your services very shortly. What did you do then after you got out of high school?

D: I entered the University of Minnesota School of Engineering in fall of 1942. And then as you mentioned, you know, the, I was 18 at that time. And the draft age was being dropped. Sometime in the fall of 1942, I decided that I did not want to wind up, be drafted, and wind up in the infantry or some place like that. So I went to the Draft Board and volunteered and asked them if I could choose my branch of service. And they said yes I could. So I did volunteer and I was, let's see, I went into the service then in March of 1943. But I had tried to get into the Air Corps in the fall of 1942 but I couldn't pass the physical because of my eyesight. And I tried to get into OCS {Officer Candidate School} and the same answer was there. You had to have better eyesight than the eyesight which I had.

T: What transpired then Don? I think you mentioned in the first interview that you got into an STP program or…

D: ASTP. Yeah. Well, I went to ah, when I went in the Army, I went to Shepherd Field, Texas and they gave me a complete physical and because of my eyesight, they put me in limited service which meant that I was going to stay in Shepherd Field, Texas for the balance of the war and become permanent training cadre there. And I didn't particularly go for that so they had a, the army had a program called Army Specialized Training Program and I took the test and passed it and went into an engineering program at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. And then from there I went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

And then in April of 1944, our program was cancelled and I was a few months away from becoming a second lieutenant, and I am assuming, in the Corps of Engineers. So the next thing I knew I was on a train and headed for Camp Claiborne, Louisiana to join the 84th Infantry Division. And went through basic training with them. And then we were, during the summer of 1944 we were on maneuvers, getting ready to go overseas.

And we left Camp Claiborne about the first of September by train and headed to the East Coast. And we left the East Coast then in, sometime in September of '44. And took troop ships and wound up in England. And we were in England for a short period of time and went across and landed in Normandy. And then they put us on, I think it was called The Red Ball Express. The trucks that they used to transport infantry closer to the front.

Sometime in late October or early in November, we wound up on the front lines.

T: Now you reached the front at, this was late in September did you say?

D: Late October or very early November.

T: Can you recall just where that was located in Europe?

D: Well I was in the 84th Infantry Division and our division was a part of the Ninth Army which was commanded by, I believe I'm correct, a Gen. Simpson. We were the most northern American army and to the north of us were the British, and Canadians and you know, the Australians, New Zealanders, etc. from the British Empire. And we did at times work with British tanks and British units. So I know we were pretty far north from that. I don't know whether we were, I think we were but I'm not positive, that our division was the most northern division of the American 9th Army.

T: Did your division go into combat immediately or was there a sort of waiting period or preparation period where you just…?

D: Yes. What you did in our case anyhow, we took over the front line position from another division which was being taken off the front lines for a time. And I don't remember too many details on that but that was a good way to do it because you were then in a position to take over a static situation which was done the right way. I mean the foxholes were where they should have been, and everything else like that.

T: Can you recall, aside from combat, what your daily life was like when you were at the front? What was the food like, and that sort of thing?

D: Well, I was a platoon runner which meant that I was the contact between the platoon and and our company headquarters. So I was the person that was involved with providing that platoon of roughly 40 men with their food and their ammunition and anything else that they needed. So typically, and a lot of times you'd do this at night because they had, the Germans had spotters and we think some snipers out there too. And if they saw you moving around during the daytime, why you might have been a pretty good target for them.

But the main thing we did was make sure that we maintained communication with our platoon, my platoon I guess.

T: I've always thought of a runner as just being someone who did communication things. But you said you had to bring them the food and ammunition. That sounds like a big job for one guy for forty men.

D: Well, I think though, I think I had help too. I think somebody from the platoon normally helped me. And ah, and it's a good way to do it because we had, I'm sure that we had communication lines back to company headquarters and also they had radio equipment. But you know, a lot of times a mortar shell could come in and just split your communication wiring. So you had to be ready to communicate by foot in order to make sure that we had contact with them.

T: At this point your division actually did have contact with the enemy.

D: That's correct.

T: Was your unit suffering casualties at that time? I know eventually you were wounded but…

D: The only thing I can remember about those very early days was that one of our men was killed by a sniper bullet. And I was involved in taking him back to the rear. And I guess I'll never forget that because he was the first one who I knew that was…

T: He was somebody that you actually knew very well. I can imagine that's a very traumatic event.

D: Yes it is. And the thing that we did then, we moved from that position and I guess obviously some other division came in and took over our area on the front lines. And I don't recall exactly, I know we were either in Germany or Belgium at the time. I don't recall exactly where we went but we did move and I'm assuming that we were in another front line position.

And then the day that I was wounded and captured, we made an advance of oh I think it was slated to be somewhere in the range of two to four miles was our objective from where we were. Our division, our particular battalion I guess I should say, started that offensive operation very early in the morning and we were kinda on the tail end of it so it was getting to be daybreak when we moved forward. Which put us in a position of being kind of easy to spot as compared to the guys who were out there at 2, 3, 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning. And that's how I happened to be hit.

T: Somebody spotted you.

D: Yeah. And hit in the morning and then I can't tell you exactly what happened but I think we were in a kind of an area where the Germans put a pocket around us and just said, "Okay, we kill you here or else you become a prisoner." And there were, I think there were quite a few of us that were captured. I'm guessing. I'm going to say maybe 50 of us were captured that morning. And I couldn't walk. So one of my friends carried me and we finally found a wheelbarrow which I got into and made the trip a little easier for him of course, and for me also. But ah…

T: And the Germans were shepherding you guys along?

D: That's correct. And one thing happened Tom that we, all of a sudden our artillery sent over some hang fire which means the shell explodes up in the air and fragments of that shell come down on the ground. And fortunately none of em landed that close to us. And ah, but I could just see that if fragments of those shells killed a couple of Germans, I'm not so sure I'd be here today.

But then they took us, those of us who were wounded, they took us to what I would refer to as a battalion aid station.

T: Were quite a few of these men wounded that were captured?

D: No. There weren't that many of us. I'm gonna guess there might have been maybe eight or ten of us at the most. And what they did there, they did as well as they could there and so anyhow I'm thankful to the German doctor that patched me up.

T: They treated you more or less humanely then?

D: That's correct. At that battalion aid station. So, I can't tell you for sure, but I do remember being on a train after that. How and when the, by the way that day was November 29th, 1944. And I can't tell you for sure when I arrived at the prison camp which was Stalag 11B near Fallingbostel, Germany. Which is up in the northern part of Germany. It's kind of northwest from Hanover. {Don provided a map which locates all POW camps in Germany during WW II}.

But they had barracks buildings I guess you'd call em at Stalag 11 B and those of us who were wounded were put in a separate building, until I guess our wounds healed to a point where they put us out with everybody else.

T: You were receiving medical treatment at that time by the German doctors?

D: No. By British doctors who were captured along with elements of the British First Airborne Division. Who had been there since sometime in the fall of 1944 when they were captured near the bridge at Arnheim. And so they did what they could but they didn't have…

T: Their supplies and equipment was probably pretty meager.

D: Pretty limited at that point in time. That's correct. But ah, as you can well appreciate, the, it was cold up there. And we used to, two of us would sleep together because that meant we'd have two blankets over us instead of just one blanket to keep warm.

And of course the food wasn't very good. I lost 30 to 40 pounds.

T: What type of food were you fed? What did it consist of?

D: Most of the time we'd get soup of one variety or another. Potato soup an awful lot of the time. And I don't remember, I'm pretty sure we didn't get anything for breakfast. And I'm assuming that we may have gotten two meals a day but I'm not positive of that. I just don't remember. But you'd get bread and potato soup.

T: Were you able to move around this camp or were you confined to a specific area and couldn't leave that?

D: No. You could move around and of course there was barbed wire all around us as you are well aware. And also guard posts that were up in the air. And I can't tell you for sure Tom how many prisoners were there but I'm gonna say it had to be between two and five thousand.

T: So it was a big camp.

D: Somewhere in that range. This is how I remember it. But…

T: What did you guys do during the day to occupy your time? Or did the Germans put you to work?

D: The fellows who were able to work, they went out on work parties. To cut wood for example, and I assume that they may have gone to other types of projects. I don't actually remember for sure. I still wasn't able to get around very well, so as a result of that I was kind of hobbling. So as a result of that why they passed me up. So I don't ever remember being on a work detail.

But the time, as you can well appreciate, the time hung pretty heavy. And I, I guess if we could stand the cold weather, we were outside of the barracks building. But also as I recall, that was the coldest winter for a hundred years in northern Germany. And so we didn't have any extra clothing either, so if it was a cold day, we were probably in hugging those stoves around in the barracks buildings.

T: I don't imagine the Germans issued you any other clothing either. You probably subsisted with what was on your back at the time.

D: That's right. As you know too Tom, why men would die. And I don't again remember the specifics on that but I think if the man had a jacket at the time of his death, I'm sure that we used that jacket for somebody who was alive.

But there were Russians at the camp, and as I mentioned, the British were there. And I think, I don't know about the French prisoners, whether they were there or not.

T: Did those other nationalities keep pretty much to themselves or did you guys intermingle?

D: Well, we did intermingle. There's no question about that. But you pretty much stick with the Americans. And as I recall again, now I'm trying to go back a few years, but as I recall again Tom, the British were pretty much in certain barracks and the Americans were in other barracks. I guess the reason for that was that in a way you had a leader or commanding sergeant or officer who was number one man in your barracks. He'd get the instructions from the Germans as to what they wanted us to do.

T: During your first interview you showed me letters or a little postcard that you had sent home to your folks, telling them that you were a prisoner. Did you in turn receive anything from home? Did you receive any mail at all when you were in the camp?

D: No. I didn't receive anything during that period.

T: Did anybody else? Wasn't there - I know that there were some Red Cross materials that went into some of these camps. But you didn't get mail then?

D: No. I didn't get any and I don't remember anybody else in my group getting any.

T: What was in the Red Cross materials that were sent to the camps?

D: Food, cigarettes. I don't remember now for sure. There might have been a deck of cards in there. Dice maybe.

T: Did the Germans give you those things untouched or did they skim off some of the goodies from the top? Can you remember that?

D: As I recall, ours came wrapped up. But I don't remember Tom, it was set up so that we were supposed to get one a week. But we sure didn't get one a week if that was the policy. It was more like one every two weeks or perhaps one every three weeks.

T: How much weight did you lose Don?

D: Thirty to forty pounds. But a lot of fellows lost a lot more weight than that. For whatever reason, I don't know.

T: When guys, you mentioned some fellows expired in camp. Some fellows died. Was it as a result of wounds that they sustained or was it some disease that took some of these fellows.

D: I don't know for sure Tom, but I would say, just take pneumonia as on example. If somebody got pneumonia there was a good chance that he might not make it because we didn't have any antibiotics to fight it. And I think to that in some cases it's possible that wounds didn't heal properly. And from that he might have gotten an infection and it just ah, we didn't have penicillin and those other medications to bring him back to health again.

In our camp I don't recall an awful lot of guys dying but I do remember that some of them did die.

T: How would you describe your German captors? What, what were they like, or didn't you really have much contact with them?

D: No. We really didn't have that much contact with them other than when, I'm going to say when the leader of our barracks was in communication with them primarily.

T: You know, one sees movies depicting life in prisoner of war camps. And one wonders if it was really like that. You know, the brutal guards and that sort of thing.

D: Well, in our case, I don't ever remember anybody ever being hit with the stock of a rifle or anything like that. I don't remember any guards in guard towers firing at somebody. In addition I don't remember, at least from the group that I was with, I don't remember anybody escaping.

T: I was going to ask you if there was any talk about escape. Did any fellows get together and say, "Let's try and get out of here."

D: I'm sure they did. But, going back a little bit here, one of the toughest days that we spent in the camp was when prisoners started to arrive at our camp from the Battle of the Bulge. Because we were pretty convinced that the war was going to end early in 1945. And then all of a sudden here from the middle of December until the middle of January were these American prisoners streaming into our camp. So we had some pretty low days in there as a result of that.

But then as time went on, we knew that the war was going to be ending. We didn't know when.

T: How did you know? What was it that made you suspect that things were winding down? What did you hear?

D: Well, we saw an awful lot of our aircraft going over and then I think I was liberated on April 20th, or it was about that time in April 1945. And I do remember some of our fighter aircraft coming over and wagging their wings at us to let us know that something good was happening.

We were liberated by British tanks and Scottish infantry. And they just made a big circle around our camp. By the time they got there, I'm going to guess, I don't think there was a German left in the prison camp.

T: They sort of disappeared?

D: They disappeared. Probably you know, would leave the night before the liberation took place. And then we were sent to Brussels, Belgium. And the people that were running the program for the army and knew exactly what to do with us from the standpoint of food. They let us eat anything we wanted - and there was a lot of food there - and we would get sicker than a dog.

T: That's what I hear.

D: And throw up everything that we had to eat. The next day you didn't eat as much and you finally got everything under control. But I guess they had found earlier that that was the best way to do it and the best way to cure somebody.

T: You learn from experience.

D: Instead of you know, trying to dole out smaller portions and things like that.

Then we wound up on the coast of France and I think that we came back on a hospital ship to the United States. And we, then I think we got a 30 day leave to go home. And after the 30 days, we were, or I was to report to Hot Springs, Arkansas.

T: Was your leg in pretty good shape at this point? Had it pretty well healed?

D: Yeah. I would say it was in fairly good shape at that point in time. And this was for full examinations. And I don't recall how long we were there but I think I probably spent a week there at Hot Springs, Arkansas. And then I was moved up to Fort Sheridan in Illinois for just a day or two and then moved over to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

T: You were getting pretty close to home then.

D: Yes. Being from St. Paul, I sure was.

T: I suppose that you had quite a bit of contact with your folks by this time via telephone or what have you.

D: That is correct. Right. And then of course I spent 30 days at home. And then I was at Camp McCoy until late November of 1945 when I was discharged.

But one of the things relating to my mother and father, one of the things, it took many weeks and or months actually, two or three or four months almost for information to reach them that I was a prisoner of war. And my mother and dad found out sometime during December of 1944 that there was an organization called "Missing In Action, MIA and Prisoner of War" agency or association or something.

T: Was that a government agency or was it a private?

D: I think it was maybe even done by the city of St. Paul too. I really don't remember Tom. But they used to have meetings on occasion. I think their meetings were like every two weeks or something like that. And my mother and dad would attend those meetings.

T: Sort of a support group then.

D: That's correct. Yeah. But I think it was close to, I'm guessing when I say this, but I think it was three to four months after my capture on November 29th, 1944 that they knew that I was still alive. Because the telegram that they got from Uncle Sam stated that I was missing in action as a result of, I don't know exactly how it was worded again but as a result of action on November 29th, 1944.

But that was the only way that they communicated with us who were captured in a given battle on a given day, was to send to your next of kin a telegram saying that you were missing in action and that further information, when it's available will be sent to you. But I think as far as my mother and dad goes, that was the toughest time for them. Not knowing whether I was dead or alive. Which was you know, true of all prisoners. But the Germans sure didn't hurry up to give that information to the Red Cross so that the Red Cross could forward it, you know.

T: Early in the war when things weren't going very good, did you ever have any doubts about whether America would win the conflict?

D: No I don't think so Tom. I think that with our training and with the way that we were instructed, there was always an optimistic point of view. I don't ever remember other than what I told you when we were in the prison camp, American prisoners started storming in. I don't remember anybody being other than optimistic. Everybody knew we were going to win the war. The only thing we didn't know was when was this going to happen. And I think that you just, with the training you had, particularly the training that took place within the month before we headed for overseas; you knew it wasn't going to be easy. You knew that you could be killed pretty easy or captured. You knew that you had to trust your buddies and you had to follow orders. But it was, and even the optimism in the prison camp after we got over the prisoners that were captured during the Battle of the Bulge. We were optimistic. I think that helped us an awful lot to have that attitude.

T: When you heard about the German concentration camps, what were your thoughts on that, having been a prisoner of the Germans yourself in a little bit different circumstances. What did you think about that whole business of the German concentration camps and the death camps?

D: I think that first, we really didn't believe it to start with. But then as we heard more and more about it, why we just could not believe that the Germans would do something like that to six million people, whatever that number added up to. And I think all we really wanted to do was kill every German we saw. It was just hard for us to understand. When you're in the infantry, the thing you're trained to do is kill your enemy. And that thought never leaves your mind.

And then the other thing is that you rely on your buddies, the guy that's in the foxhole with you. The guy who's in that foxhole that way in the other direction. And you just, even though they are a human being, you had no love for them in any way because they started it and we just, we just knew that we were going to win the war and the only way to do that was to kill or capture as many Germans as we possibly could.

T: You were out of the service then when the war in Japan, in the Far East ended.

D: No. That was in August of 1945 and I didn't get out Tom until November of '45.

T: Oh. Okay. I imagine that when you heard about the end of that particular part of the war, that was pretty happy news.

D: Yes, it sure was. There's no question about that. I think I was at Fort Sheridan, Illinois at that time but I'm not positive. I was either there or I was at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

And of course when we got back I think somehow or another I got a job with the Minnesota State Highway Department for the month of December of 1945 and then I started at the University of Minnesota again in January of 1946.

T: In the engineering education that was interrupted?

D: In mechanical engineering.

T: When you were in the service, did you get any medals or citations?

D: Well, I had the combat infantryman's badge, which you are familiar with. And of course I have a Purple Heart as a result of my wounds. And I have the ribbons for the part of Europe that we were in, my infantry battalion.

T: The so-called unit citations that everybody gets in your particular unit?

D: Yes but they are more to show what major battle you were in. And I don't remember all this stuff but that was the primary reason for the various ribbons. Like our guys who were down in Italy, I'm guessing when I say this - I'm not positive but I assume they got a different color ribbon than those of us who were up in the northern part of Germany.

{The first tape ends here}.

T: So you went back to the University of Minnesota. Then did you graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering?

D: Right. I graduated in August of 1948.

T: When did you get married?

D: In April of 1949.

T: What was your first job?

D: I joined 3M Company, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing whose headquarters is there in St. Paul. And I joined them as a sales trainee in September of 1945 and then, I'm sorry, September of 1948. And then was married in April of 1949. And then Mary and I were to transferred to St. Louis in August of 1949.

T: Do you have children?

D: Yes. We have three daughters. Two of them are in the greater Atlanta area. One's in [Alfareta], the other's in Roswell. And then our third daughter lives in the Fox Cities. And we have four granddaughters. I'm the last one in the Gilbert family and I don't have any grandsons.

T: I see. Well, that's the breaks of the game, I guess.

Don, looking back, do you think the war changed you in any way. Your experiences in the war, did it make you a different person?

D: Well I think so Tom, from the standpoint that today I still have trouble as far as both the Germans with the death camps and the Japanese, the way they treated our guys on the Bataan Death March. For example, I would not buy a Japanese car. I try and find, if I have a choice, I buy what is made in the USA instead of made in Japan.

T: I guess those of us who lived during that particular period of time tend to feel that way. A lot of us do. And younger people cannot always that. They have difficulty understanding why we should be feeling that way. But I guess one has to go through it to appreciate that sort of thing.

D: Well, you know it's tough to believe too that the average German civilian didn't know about the death camps. That's hard for me to believe, that they didn't know about them.

T: Same here, Don. Do you ever have any contact with fellows that you were in the camp with, when you were in the prison camp? Did you ever maintain any contact with any of them?

D: No. I can't tell you why I didn't.

T: Were any of them that you can recall, from around this part of the country? Or were they from all over the place?

D: They were from all over the country. But I am a member of the Ex Prisoners of War. And I'm a member of the Northeastern Wisconsin Chapter here. I have not found anybody who was in Stalag 11 B.

T: Do you fellows have meetings periodically?

D: We get together about four times a year.

T: Well, that's nice. That's quite frequent.

D: And my infantry division, I'm going to a reunion in Rhode Island in August. And I didn't know this at all Tom, but they have been having reunions since 1946.

T: I had somebody else tell me that. That they went to their first reunion and didn't know that this was happening.

D: First one I went to was in Branson, Missouri which was in the year 2001. And then last year I went to a reunion in Asheville, North Carolina.

T: Did you see people that you knew, had known when you were in the army?

D: No. And the interesting thing is that the smallest unit is, I think you're aware of this, there's a squad, and then there's a platoon and then there's the company. Then there's the battalion and then there's the division. And when I go to these reunions they do a pretty good job of letting everybody know for example that I was in Company I, 335th - I forgot the regiment in there - I was in Company I, 335th Regiment. And that way hopefully you can find somebody. Well, in Asheville I thought I saw four guys with tee shirts that said Company I, 335 on the back of their tee shirts. So after our meeting of that morning, I contacted them and they were all replacements. None of them went over when we went over in September of 1944. And you find that true I guess of every infantry division.

T: Right. Especially those that were in heavy combat. There'd just be replacements coming in all the time.

D: That's correct. Yes.

T: Well maybe one of these days you'll be lucky and you'll meet somebody that you remember from those days.

D: I hope so.

T: Do you think of the war very much today? Are there memories that come back?

D: I enjoy the History Channel on television and I guess that if I've finished reading the paper and it's say 8'30 or 8:00, whatever the time might be, I might flip on the television set and see what's on the History Channel. And if it's something to do with wars or something to do with our military that I haven't seen before or don't know much about, well generally I'll watch it.

But no, on a typical given average day I really don't think much about what happened.

T: Perhaps that's just as well. Is there anything else that comes to mind Don that you'd like to tell me about regarding your experiences in the war?

D: I guess the only thing is that you know, wanting to get into the Air Corps of the Navy, Army, Marines, whatever and not being able to do that. And then volunteering so that I could pick my branch of service. And then winding up in limited service which meant you know, that I wouldn't be leaving the United States, or if I did, I'd be way, way back from the front lines. And then getting into the program that got me out of Shepherd Field, Texas. And then having that program cancelled a few months before I was to complete it. And then winding up in the infantry in Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. And I had basic training of course in the Air Corps at Shepherd Field, Texas in March or April of 1943. And here I am, a year later April of 1944 I'm heading back to basic training again, this time in the infantry.

T: Shows how a person's fortunes can change.

D: I guess you know, and I think I'd probably still volunteer again to the draft board, as long as I could pick my branch of service. It's surprising that they didn't know that, or maybe they did know that and figured, better not tell him that's what's going to happen.

T: Well Don, I think that just about does it. I'm really very happy that you were able to come back in and do this again. I'm sorry that it was necessary to do that but its been a very interesting discussion and I certainly appreciate it very much.

D: You're very welcome Tom. I'm glad to be able to be a part of your program here.
Event World War II
Category 6: T&E For Communication
Legal Status Oshkosh Public Museum
Object ID OH2001.3.51
Object Name Tape, Magnetic
Location of Originals Oshkosh Public Museum
People Gilbert, Donald Allan
Related unit of descrip Photocopies of offical documents relating to the interviewee's military service and records are located in his file.
Subjects World War II
84th Division
United States Army
Prisoners of war
Wounds & injuries
Title Oral History Interview with Donald Allen Gilbert.
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Last modified on: December 12, 2009